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India boosts border patrols to limit Chinese standoffs

General Bipin Rawat
MILITARY MIGHT: General Bipin Rawat


INDIA will handle China’s growing assertiveness and has stepped up patrols on their disputed border to prevent more standoffs, the country’s top army officer said on Friday (12).  

The nuclear-armed neighbours have, in the past, gone to war over their bor­der. Last year, the two sides were in­volved in a showdown over a Himala­yan plateau claimed by China and Bhutan, which is an ally of India.  

Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat said a military hotline was be­ing set up between the two sides but insisted that his troops were ready for new tensions.  

“We understand China is a power­ful country but we are not a weak na­tion,” Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat said when asked about the bor­der dispute. “We have increased our troop levels… we have increased our patrolling intensity. We are capable of handling China’s assertiveness.  

“We will not allow our territory to be invaded. Whenever intrusions take place, we will defend because that’s there in our charter.”  

Hundreds of Chinese and Indian troops faced off last year on the Doklam plateau, a small strip close to the intersection between China, India and Bhutan.  

Rawat admitted that Indian soldiers crossed into foreign territory during the standoff, but only because Chi­nese forces had “big equipment and they meant business”.  

“We knew they will try and claim the whole of Doklam. We felt a change in the status quo..(but) all effort was made by us to ensure it does not lead to a conflict. Even if it would have es­calated we were prepared (as) the ter­rain usually favours us.”  

The border dispute began in mid- June after Chinese troops started building a road on the Himalayan plateau. India has an army base nearby and moved soldiers to the area to halt the work, prompting Beijing to accuse it of trespassing on Chinese territory.  

The two nations finally pulled back their troops in mid-August, averting a full-blown crisis.  

India and China fought a 1962 war over Arunachal Pradesh state and have a history of mistrust as they jostle for regional supremacy.  

China has fostered closer ties with India’s rival Pakistan in recent years. It has also invested in other countries in the region in a bid to win friends.  

India is revamping its military and bolstering its partnership with the United States and Japan.  

Both nations say they are commit­ted to solving their border disagree­ments through dialogue, but progress has been glacial.  

Rawat said a military hotline with China was in the works to help defuse future border tensions.  

“We are moving very fast, very soon we will have a hotline with the Chi­nese. As we are seeing increased activ­ity along the LAC (Line of Actual Con­trol), this can be de-escalated through one-to-one talks at the highest level at the borders,” he said.